FAQ: Deus Ex Machina


I get this one a lot about the ending of Persephone. How did Persephone defeat a god who has been around since almost the beginning of time after only four months of training?

The fact that I’m asked that means I made a rookie mistake and didn’t put the gun on the mantel early enough or clearly enough in the story to avoid a Deus ex Machina scenario at the end. Fortunately, since my character is in fact a god, I get a bit more leeway with the whole God in the Machine bit, and I was not slammed for this in reviews to the extent I should have been. But there were reasons. Just not terribly well explained ones.

The first that divine powers don’t take much training. They are used by gods, and gods think therefore thinks are. Persephone herself notes this when she’s trying to learn how to dreamwalk from Hypnos. Everything comes easy to her, including aspects of her own powers, but dreamwalking is hard because she has no natural talent for it. If she had a natural talent for it, she’d master it pretty much instantly, like how she managed to create a plant the very first time she ever even attempted to use her powers. When she charmed people, she charmed them completely. She doesn’t need to learn to use her powers, she needs to learn which ones she has, how to access them, and how to use a light touch so she doesn’t accidentally destroy stuff. To use a light touch so she doesn’t unintentionally destroy stuff. She doesn’t use a light touch on Boreas, or precision. She uses the power equivalent of a sledge hammer.

And that works, because as far as sledge hammers go, hers is stronger. She may be a junior goddess, but she’s actively being worshiped by Orpheus’s fans, and she outranks Boreas. It’s established in the book that bloodlines are all, each generation is less strong than the last. Boreas is a minor wind god and son of a minor set of Titans. Persephone is divine royalty. She’s the daughter of two realm rulers. As Thanatos pointed out, she outranks pretty much every living god left.

Of course Persephone’s biggest advantage didn’t come down to experience or power. It came down to a vow of fealty he’d sworn to Zeus. It’s well established in my universe that divine children share their parent’s powers. Gods are only vulnerable to their own powers, ergo their children are their weaknesses. But when a god swears fealty to another god, they are surrendering their powers to them. That makes them vulnerable to things like that god’s charm, the same charm Persephone holds a piece of.

That third advantage is the one I messed up the most. Fealty isn’t introduced as a concept until after the fight. Plot wise, I couldn’t have explained that fealty makes gods vulnerable to charm specifically without really spoiling my ending. But I could have made hints earlier (or at all) in the story. If I had a do-over, that’s exactly what I would do. Add in one or two scenes where fealty is subtly mentioned. Probably in one of Hestia’s lessons and in one of the library chats with Hades.

But for now, all I can say is oops.

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